Sparklers for New Year Celebrations

December 30, 2014

Sparklers for New Year Celebrations

Every year, the range of sparkling wines available continues to grow. Decent bubble, it seems, is being made just about everywhere.  From Prosecco at the lighter end of the spectrum to the full blown richness of Vintage Champagne, there is something for every taste and budget.

Here is an eclectic, but by no means exhaustive selection. I wish you all a Very Happy New Year’s celebration and a healthy and prosperous 2015.

Inexpensive to Moderately Priced:

Jacob’s Creek Chardonnay Pinot Noir Brut, Australia $13.99 NSLC General List Now selling for a few dollars less than it did several years ago, this one leans a little to tropical fruit ripeness, but is otherwise a pretty stylish bubble with good weight, persistent mousse and appealing creamy smoothness. ***

Wolf Blass Yellow Label Brut, Australia 11% $18.99 NSLC Quite elegant for this price range, displaying light citrus and some yeasty biscuity character on the nose and subtle tropical fruit on the palate. Well-balanced and creamy in texture with light vanilla and citrus flavours on the finish. **

Freixenet Cordon Negro Cava Brut, Spain 11.5% $15.99 NSLC General List The popular Cordon Negro, readily recognizable in its stylish all-black bottle, continues to deliver clean apple and citrus fruit, lively mousse and refreshingly crisp acidity. ***

Bouvet Brut NV, France $20.99 An ever reliable standby from the Loire region, this is a traditional bottle-fermented style that will not necessarily excite, but will not disappoint either.**

Graham Beck Brut NV, South Africa $22.79 NSLC (Larger Stores) A terrific Traditional Bottle-fermented bubble offering good depth and richness for a bargain price. ***

Nova Scotia:

Nova Scotia now boasts some of the finest bubble on the planet and the range of offerings is growing every year. The NSLC as well as all Private Stores around Metro offer fine NS sparklers. Here are a few suggestions, each exemplifies the elegantly crisp, minerally Nova Scotia style:

L’Acadie Vineyards Cuvée Rosé $25.99

Blomidon Estate Cuvée l’Acadie Brut $29.99

Benjamin Bridge Brut $44.99

Benjamin Bridge Brut Reserve Vintage $74.79


There are many good Champagnes currently available from the NSLC and the Bishop’s Cellar has also established a very good range of well-selected labels, including lesser known grower offerings. Here is a short list:

Pol Roger Brut $64.29 (NSLC + Private Stores) A hallmark for style and quality in non-vintage Champagne. ***

Deutz Brut Classique NV $64.99 Steely elegance from a prestigious producer. ***

Duval-Leroy Brut NV $64.49 This is a smaller, but ambitious and well-run operation whose wines offer distinctive finesse.***

Charles Heidsieck  Brut Reserve NV $74.98 NSLC (Limited Selection) Toasty, biscuity richness combined with depth of fruit, weight on the palate and excellent acidity, this is hard to beat. ***

Bollinger Special Cuvée Brut $74.99 (Special Price $5 Off) NSLC Bollinger is at the top of its game at the moment. This is an example of very fine Champagne at a less than stratospheric price. ***

A Couple of Great Values at Harvest Wines on Baker Drive in Dartmouth. Prices only good until New Year’s Eve

Saxenburg Guinea Fowl Chenin Blanc Viognier 2012, Wine of Origin Stellenbosch, South Africa 13% $15.99 (Special Price $4 Off) Harvest Wines This exciting white is made using grapes from 27 year old vines. It has been cool-fermented and has had long exposure to the lees. The result is extravagantly perfumed tropical blossom and tropical fruit bouquet though surprisingly clean and crisply dry white peach flavours on the palate. Supported by attractive mineral character and refreshing acidity this is a polished, well-made, interesting wine that definitely deserves a try. ***

Ben Glaetzer Heartland Stickleback Red 2010, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Dolcetto, Lagrein, South Australia 14.5% $13.99 (Special Price $4 Off) Enticing nose reflects the complex blend of varietals overlaid with a dusting of cinnamon and a light kiss of clove. Layers of red and dark fruit with gutsy tannic structure and food-friendly drying finish. Once you are through with turkey leftovers drink this winner with grilled steak, roast lamb or other robust red meat dishes. ***


Wine Notes

December 24, 2014

If you are doing some last minute wine shopping for a couple of good wines to complement your Holiday fare, you might consider the two new listings from Argentina and Chile reviewed here. Traditional Christmas entertaining would hardly be complete without a bottle of heart-warming Port. Taylor’s ’08 LBV should fill the bill without breaking the bank.

All best wishes for a Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday Season!

Catena Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Mendoza, Argentina 13.5% $22.99 NSLC (8 Larger Stores Carrying Port of Wines Listings) Sourced from Catena Zapata’s high altitude vineyards in Mendoza, the wine shows good varietal nose highlighting blackcurrant, blackberry, green herb and a whiff of clove. Blackberry and blackcurrant themes persist in the mouth with solid structure and a splash of dark chocolate on the finish. Deftly-made in classic Argentine style. ***

Luis Felipe Edwards Guardian Reserva Red Blend 2012, Colchagua Valley, Chile 14% $15.79 NSLC (5 Port of Wines Outlet Stores – Limited Quantities) An intriguing oak-aged blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenère, Merlot and Cabernet Franc offering dark berry, black currant, minty herbal and spicy scents with well-integrated dark fruit flavours, good weight and structure and lingering fruit, spice and dark chocolate on the finish. ***

Taylor Fladgate2008, Late-Bottled Vintage Port 20% $22.79 (Special Price $2 Off) NSLC (Wide Distribution) Maraschino cherries, wood soaked spirit, together with an array of spices, clove in the foreground, open the way for sweet red fruit, plenty of spice and milk chocolate against a background of drying tannins.  Finishes with a welcome touch of fiery warming alcohol.  In recent years, Port has tended towards rather tame fruity sweetness. This one shows encouraging signs of returning to the more characterful, powerful traditional style. Bring it on! ***

Bargain Wine

Fish Hoek Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Wine of Western Cape, South Africa 12.5% $12.49 NSLC General List The vintage for this crisply fresh, ever-reliable Sauvignon has just changed over to 2014. It is every bit as good as ever, with fresh lime, passion fruit and grass herbal notes, finishing dry enough to pair perfectly with oysters on the half shell. Outstanding value! **


December 12, 2014

Robert Mondavi Private Selection California Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, 13.5% $17.99 ($2 Off) NSLC General List Red berry, light vanilla spice and green herbal scents with blackberry, blackcurrant and dark chocolate kicking in on the palate. Medium weight and with a bit of dry tannic backbone, this is a reliable, well-made middle of the road Cab. **

Matua Pinot Noir 2012, Marlborough, New Zealand 13% $17.99 ($2 Off) NSLC (Wide Distribution) Enticing scents of ripe strawberry and spice lead into strawberry and red cherry flavours with a splash of milk chocolate and vanilla in the mouth. Lightly dry tannins and lively acidity bring harmonious balance to the finish. ***

Chateau St. Jean Pinot Noir 2012, California 13.8% $16.99 NSLC General List ($2 Off) Attractive scents of strawberry, cherry and vanilla accented spice open the way for red cherry and raspberry on the palate with well-balanced acidity and a light splash of dry chocolate on the finish. Another fine value. ***

Villa Sandi Pinot Grigio 2012, Veneto IGT, Italy 12% $15.99 ($1 Off) NSLC (Limited Distribution – 10 Stores) This elegant, cool-climate style Pinot Grigio reveals delicate floral and ripe green apple character, good mineral grip and  crisply refreshing acidity. Not overstated, it offers refined simplicity, and makes an excellent match for a variety of lighter sea food, white meat and cream-based pasta dishes. ***

An imageBodega François Lurton Pinot Gris 2013, Valle de Uco, Argentina 13% $14.99 (Buy 2 and save $3). Note: the same deal applies to Bodega Lurton’s Piedra Negra Malbec) From very high altitude vineyards in the Uco Valley, this perennially good Pinot Gris shows delicate floral scents with lively green fruit and a light trace of green herb. Generously flavoured yellow and green fruit flavours come in a rounded texture with a suggestion of honey. Contrasting brisk acidity and gravelly mineral grip makes this an excellent aperitif that will also pair equally well with seafood or white meat dishes. ***






An imagePierre Amedieu Roulepierre 2011, Côtes du Rhone AC 13.5% $16.29 ($1 Off) NSLC Opens with raspberry, redcurrant, a whiff of herb and lightly peppery spice on the nose, shifting to more dominant blackberry in the mouth with raspberry playing second fiddle. Firm tannic structure, food friendly acidity and dry savoury notes make this moderately complex wine one of the best Southern Rhone offerings I have tasted in this price range. ***







Oyster Bay Merlot 2012, Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand 12.5% $18.99 (C$3 Off) NSLC General List Opens with ripe plum with rich earthy, herbal and vanilla-accented spicy character on the nose and sweet dark plum and cherry in the mouth. Bright fresh fruit and lively acidity reveal cool-climate origins. Very good value at this price. **


An imageTommasi Viticoltori 2012, Valpolicella Ripasso 13% $22.99 (Special Price $2 Off) NSLC (Wide Distribution) Warmly perfumed cherry, plum, cinnamon and clove spice on the nose with sweet red fruit on the palate, supported by lightly firm tannins and adroitly balanced acidity. Finish is stylish and harmoniously integrated. Pair with grilled red meats, more sophisticated tomato based pasta dishes and firm-ripened cheeses. ***







Good value in its price range *

Particularly good value in its price range**

Exceptional value in its price range***

November 27, 2014

Muskoka Brewery - A Welcome New Arrival on the Nova Scotia Beer Scene

Mad TomOntario’s Muskoka Brewery has been around for a long time. While Ontario remains Muskoka’s primary market, with the addition of Nova Scotia, its various offerings are now available in eight of the ten Provinces. The two beers that are currently on the shelves are Muskoka’s flagship Mad Tom IPA and a great seasonal brew. Both are well worth a try.


Muskoka Brewery Mad Tom IPA 6.4% $15.99 6x355ml bottles NSLC (Larger Stores) Unfiltered and dry hopped, using Chinook and Centennial hops, this well-crafted IPA offers emphatic hoppy, fruity and rich malty aroma with full-flavoured nutty malt and characteristic bitter hoppiness on the palate, together with a touch of dried fruit and a hint of spice on the finish. ***



White BeardMuskoka Brewery Double Chocolate Cranberry Stout -Winter Beard Flavoured Strong Beer 8% $15.99 750ml bottle NSLC (Larger Stores) This special seasonal brew is warmly coloured reddish black in the glass, with softly aromatic fruit and chocolate that plays through on the rounded, ultra smooth palate. It is very nicely balanced, with lingering red fruit and chocolate on the gently bittersweet finish. An ideal winter warmer with flavours that are vaguely reminiscent of kirsch torte. ***





November 18, 2014

A Good Crop of “Hot Buys” from Cristall Wine Merchants and an Attractive Pinot on the NSLC List

Today’s reviews are mainly drawn from Cristall Wine Merchants specially priced wines. Quoted prices are good only until November 30th. The Mark West Pinot Noir is regular price at NLC stores and is widely available.

Jack’s Canyon Sauvignon Blanc 2013

Jack’s Canyon Sauvignon Blanc 2013, Waipara, New Zealand 13% $19.99 ($2 Off) Cristall Wine Merchants, Sunnyside Mall, Bedford 


Ripe gooseberry scents backed by fresh grassy herbal and mineral aromatics lead the way for crisp lean green fruit and grippy mineral on the palate. A little less exuberant than the average Kiwi Sauvignon, this one is more akin to Old World styles. Excellent pairing for fresh seafood, especially oysters on the half shell (which are now in season). **





Souverain Cabernet Sauvignon 2010

Souverain Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, North Coast. California 13.9% $21.99 ($3 Off) Cristall Wine Merchants


Blackcurrant and blackberry with typical Cabernet varietal green herb, cinnamon and clove bouquet lead into rich ripe blackberry flavours encased in a rounded supple tannic structure. Finishes very dry with well-integrated fruit, spice and a subtle touch of chocolate. This stylish California Cab punches well above its weight. With a few years bottle age, it is drinking very well now. ***





Mark West Pinot Noir 2013

Mark West Pinot Noir 2013, California 13.5% $18.99 NSLC (Wide Distribution)


Fragrant ripe cherry accented with spicy and light herbal overtones with bright cherry flavour in the mouth. Tannins are velvety with a light splash of dark chocolate on the dry finish. Polished, varietally correct Pinot and sound value at the price. An excellent pairing for rare roast beef. ***






Bargain Wines 

Beamonte Tempranillo 2012

Beamonte Tempranillo 2012, Navarra DO, Spain 12.5% $11.99 ($2 Off) Cristall Wine Merchants  


Typical Tempranillo warm red berry fruit with an elegant dusting of spice on the nose shifts towards dark berry with a splash of milk chocolate in the mouth. Medium weight and harmoniously balanced, it will pair especially well with grilled red meats. ***








Finca Las Moras Chardonnay 2014

Finca Las Moras Chardonnay 2014, Argentina 12.5% $9.99 ($3 Off) Cristall Wine Merchants


Lemon citrus and fresh floral scents expand on the palate with citrus, green apple and lightly buttery flavours and refreshingly clean acidity. Medium weight and well-balanced, this one is a first rate value for everyday drinking. **






Note: All wines I review are recommended. Star ratings are intended to indicate value and quality within a given price range.    

Good value in its price range *

Particularly good value in its price range**

Exceptional value in its price range***


Wood On Wine